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Too good to be true?

Friday, January 7, 2011

I dunno, there are a lot of red flags in this one.  But at the same time...I'm not sure what a swindler would expect to get out of this.  Thoughts?


A Cuban gentleman, 28 years old, said to be fine looking, owning a large sugar plantation, without any incumbrances, desires to make the acquaintance of some young lady, not over 21 years of age, with a view to matrimony; she must be of respectable family, refine and accomplished in every respect, and of prepossessing appearance, no matter how poor.  Such a one as may wish for an affectionate partner for life and a pleasant home, and be disposed to live in Cuba a part of the year, please address for one week, with carte de visite, E.C., box 2,100 Post office.

Well...everything screams "fake" to me, except the part where he says "no matter how poor."  If the advertiser was a con man, wouldn't his ad specify that his future wife be rich?  People did that all the time.  And instead he makes a point of saying she could be poor.  I know that this was a way for matrimonial agencies to attract victims; agents would place ads supposedly from wealthy men or women and then tell anyone who responded that they must pay a membership fee to a club or whatever, and then of course there were no wealthy men or women.  In those ads, the non-existent rich advertisers always said they would marry someone poor - a way to appeal to the widest variety of marks.  But, all that being said, this ad was written well before those agency ads became common, and it is way too long and detailed (no agent would waste money on such long ads).

In any event, that was a very long argument of why I'm confused about the poverty issue.  If it's not an agent who's going to charge a membership fee, and not a swindler hoping to steal someone's money, could it be real?  It just seems so far-fetched!  He owns a large sugar plantation.  He has no children or widowed mother (incumbrances).  He's affectionate and wants to provide a pleasant home.  His wife must be "willing" to spend part of the year in Cuba, which was still part of the Spanish empire and quite romanticized by Americans at the time.  She can be poor.  Doesn't this seem too perfect?

On the other hand...perhaps poverty wouldn't matter to a wealthy man; in fact, perhaps he's trying to show that he can support a wife without any additional income.  That's the manly thing to do.  And if he lives only part-time in Cuba, maybe it would make sense to advertise in New York (where he has a townhouse on Fifth Avenue?), and he probably wouldn't know many women there as he only comes up North for business.  There's no reason a man shouldn't have children or be affectionate.

Suddenly I'm swaying in the other direction.  Perhaps he was sincere.  Of course if he owned a large sugar plantation he would be a slaveowner, and the treatment of slaves on sugar plantations was notoriously horrific (though I think moreso in Brazil than in Cuba).  So that makes me kind of dislike him if he was for real.  I just can't win with this guy.

©2011 Pam Epstein

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